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Rush of students - a loud wake-up call for Germany's antiquated offices

Ironically, the sluggish implementation of the energy flat rate of 200 euros, for which students and technical school students will soon be waiting six months, could ensure a leap in the digitization of administration.

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Rush of students - a loud wake-up call for Germany's antiquated offices

Ironically, the sluggish implementation of the energy flat rate of 200 euros, for which students and technical school students will soon be waiting six months, could ensure a leap in the digitization of administration.

Within a few weeks, more than three million citizens will hardly be able to avoid creating the conditions for using digital administrative services. Because in order to get the 200 euros, they have to create a so-called BundID account with which they can prove their identity.

This user account for state benefits has been around since 2019. But so far hardly anyone knows about it. Even fewer have set it up so far. By the end of January it was 253,000. Now up to 3.5 million users could be added in one fell swoop.

So many students and technical students are entitled to the energy money. “I hope that this will give the administration in Germany a boost in digitization,” says Marc Danneberg, who is responsible for topics relating to the public sector at the Bitkom digital association. The more experience citizens gained with online administrative services, the more naturally they would be used.

However, Danneberg sees opportunities and dangers at the same time: The application must first work – in this case the payout platform for the 200 euros. "The students and technical school students then have to come to the realization that the digital path makes things faster and easier," says Danneberg.

And he sees another catch: So far there have simply been too few administrative services that citizens and companies can do remotely from their computers or smartphones. "A BundID is only useful if it can be used regularly," says Danneberg.

The goal formulated by politicians in 2017 to offer all services digitally nationwide within five years, from vehicle registration and re-registration of the apartment to the application for parental allowance, was missed by a long way by the end of 2022. In many places, everything has remained the same for citizens: go to the authorities, fill out a paper application, wait.

"We have to enshrine a legal right to digital administration services in law as quickly as possible," says Danneberg from the Bitkom digital association. The Online Access Act, which is currently being revised, should do just that in the future.

However, the basic requirement is that there are more offers and that they are actually user-friendly, says Malte Spitz, rapporteur on the topic of digital administration in the Regulatory Control Council. "People are very interested in government digital services, but if the application is more complicated and time-consuming than going to the authorities or the old paper form, use will remain low."

From Spitz's point of view, the direct aid for students and technical students once again reveals a basic problem in politics: laws are made without thinking about practical implementation. "The federal and state governments have reached a joint solution, which of course comes very late for the students and still involves a lot of effort for everyone involved," says Spitz.

It is not even clear when the subsidy will actually be credited to the current accounts of students and technical students. Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) recently promised that the 200 euros would be paid out this winter.

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But nothing will come of it. According to current plans, applications should only be able to be submitted from March 15th – five days before the start of spring. There are test runs earlier in some federal states.

Until then, students and technical students could use the time to open the BundID account, according to the information page with the address “Einmalzahlen200.de”, which was activated on Tuesday.

The BundID is required to register for the application. This should later take "just a few minutes" as soon as the universities and schools have distributed the access codes to the platform. After all, only they know who was actually enrolled on December 1, 2022.

However, the hurdles lurk earlier: when setting up the BundID account. The Federal Ministry of Education promotes the use of the BundID with the online function of the identity card - anyone who has a personal Elster certificate from the tax return can also use this.

For the online ID function you need a not too old smartphone with NFC function and the identification app, e.g. AusweisApp2. However, the app is only useful if the online ID function is activated on the ID card at all.

This is what needs to be checked first. The function has existed since 2011. Since an ID card is valid for ten years, it is now guaranteed that all ID cards have the function. The problem is that for many, the function is probably deactivated and the piece of paper with the PIN to activate it is missing.

A visit to the authorities could then be necessary again. "Go to the Citizens' Registration Office in the municipality where you live and have the online ID function activated. The Citizens' Registration Office will also give you a 6-digit PIN," says the instruction page.

Alternatively, a "PIN reset letter" can be ordered from Bundesdruckerei via the app. This sends a PIN to the registration address within seven working days.

The responsible Federal Ministry of the Interior was not able to answer until the afternoon whether the computing capacities are designed for a run on the BundID. The overloading of the Elster tax system is still badly remembered, when too many citizens wanted to submit the required property tax returns at the same time in the summer.

Matthias Anbuhl, CEO of the Deutsches Studierendenwerk, considers the application requirements to be demanding overall, especially since the patience of the students has already been strained by the long time since the direct aid was announced.

"After more than three years of pandemic-related state online help, one must be able to expect that the federal and state governments have expertise in how to set up such online help as quickly as possible."

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